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Editorial: War in shadows

Increasingly, America's wars have little connection to average U.S. families, and are waged without their consent. Only a handful of young people — mostly those with few civilian job prospects — enlist in the all-volunteer military services. Congress never declares war, as the U.S. Constitution requires. Instead, the White House alone jumps into "police actions" — mostly using the CIA's drones to kill targeted foreigners.

Modern U.S. warfare has become a half-hidden search-and-destroy operation, barely noticed by Americans at large. Danger and death, suffering and sacrifice, are borne by a few.

Or worse, the White House can stampede the nation into a disastrous war, as President Bush and Vice President Cheney did by exaggerating false claims to push America into invading Iraq.

Two senators — Republican John McCain and Democrat Tim Kaine — are pushing a bipartisan bill to return more warmaking power to elected members of Congress. Their proposal would require a president to consult with Congress "before ordering deployment into a significant armed conflict" that is likely to last more than a week — and would require Congress to vote on the military action within 30 days.

"Bring War Out of the Shadows" is the title of a Philadelphia Inquirer commentary by Paul McHale, a retired Marine colonel, former assistant secretary of defense and former member of Congress.

"The United States is now capable of going to war without the consent of the governed," he wrote, adding: "How did the American people become so disconnected — morally, politically and financially — from the fighting done in their name?"

When the Bush-Cheney White House prodded Congress into rubber-stamping the Iraq and Afghan wars, he said, they "unwisely chose to pay for the ensuing decade of war by charging it to our national credit card. We had the will to fight, but not the will to pay. ... The $1.5 trillion war debt will now be passed to our children."

The all-volunteer military shields most U.S. families from any risk. After his son was killed in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Kelly remarked: "America as a whole is certainly not at war. Not as a country. Not as a people. Today, only a tiny fraction — less than a percent — shoulder the burden of fear and sacrifice."

President Obama is waging war mostly through CIA drone strikes, McHale said — "and that approach has clearly worked. It has decimated our terrorist adversaries and minimized U.S. military casualties." But it's done in the shadows, with little control by Congress and "almost total citizen disengagement."

"No American war should ever be fought primarily by the CIA," he added.

We hope West Virginia's members of Congress support the McCain-Kaine bill to give elected legislators more voice in whether America should plunge into wars.


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